It happens every year. I watch a player one game and I think to myself "there's no way he's this good or will sustain this." Then I watch another game. Same result. One more. Nothing different. Okay, maybe these were 3 lucky games, let's try a fourth one out. No change. After Stanford and Oregon State I decided that maybe he's just really, really good. If Robert Nkemdiche is the ultimate wildcard with the third pick because of the potential upside then DeForest Buckner is the ultimate no-brainer pick because he's a safe home run. I can explain.
Draft Deforest Buckner bc he's not human & can fly. P simple https://t.co/OMR373zkop— KP (@The_KP_Show) January 19, 2016
Understanding the player and what he's asked to do
I've seen plenty of takes on Buckner that I couldn't disagree with more. He had a bad game against Michigan State. He's stiff. He plays high. He can't rush the passer. He doesn't have any pass rush moves. It's endless. The best way to measure if a player is stiff is to see how he handles being cut by offensive lineman. If lineman are constantly cutting him and he can't bend over to keep them from cutting him, he's likely stiff. Buckner has absolutely zero issue with this. Plenty of exposures of him avoiding the cut block and getting down the line of scrimmage to make a play.
As far as him playing high, he's 6 freaking 7. Of course he's going to play tall. Understand the prospect. Buckner only got washed out of play a few times in the 6 games I watched. This was due to not staying square or leaning on the OL and not having a good base underneath him. Players his height are going to get chipped by smaller players on double teams and are going to be on the ground. When players are locating the ball, like you want them to, they stand up. That's natural. Not all prospects are equal. There are a many more that I could get into but let's stay on task here and get into why Buckner is safe and special at the same time.
This first example of Buckner's strength is against Michigan State's left tackle Jack Conklin, who is being mocked in 1st rounds. It's not even a great rep from a technique standpoint. Ideally, you'd like to see Buckner get extension here with his arms and not like Conklin get into his pads.
Even without great technique on this play his "tools" prevail. By tools I mean ridiculous power. Buckner wins the leverage game by getting just low enough at the last minute and then with one arm hip tosses Conklin to the ground, locates the RB and picks up the tackle for loss.
The Chargers haven't had a "length and strength" defender at defensive end and it's really hurt them when it comes to matching up against tackles. It's also hurt them as far as being able to collapse the pocket. Not only does Buckner do a great job of locking out and stacking the lineman, then shedding to make the play. He also will bullrush the opponent into the quarterbacks lap. He won with a bullrush 8 different times in the 4 games, not counting below or against Oregon State.
Next matchup is against another highly touted lineman, Stanford's Josh Garnet. I think it's important to show clips where defenders aren't winning initially. Where they'll have to counter. Buckner looks like he was shooting for a club/rip move and Garnet did a good job of winning with his hands here.
Buckner then counters with a 1-arm bull rush and walks him back into the QB for a sack. What's impressive is he doesn't have any momentum to generate the power he just displayed. Out of nowhere he just walked Garnet back 3 steps for the sack. His power is realllll.
The Chargers don't have a defender that has the length to pull off this type of bull rush. What they do have is edge defenders who can make the QB step up into the pocket. There just hasn't been anyone to assist their somewhat out of control rushes.This is a situation where Buckner compliments the players around him. Speed on the edge, strength up the middle.
What sets him apart
Buckner's ability to hold his ground at the point of attack, shed and finish as arun defender, and compliment the guys on the edge make him the safe/smart pick. What sets him apart from the Nkemdiche's, the Bosa's, and the rest of the lineman in the draft is the amount of ways that he wins. I keep track of "wins", which is exactly what it sounds like, how many times you beat your man, and nobody in the draft beat their man in a 4 game sample size more than Buckner. It's not just the fact that he is beating his man, it's that he's beating them in a variety of ways. Buckner is winning more than others and winning with more moves. Like Nkemdiche, his go to is the arm over. Unlike Nkemdiche, he won a handful of times with a bull-rush, a "push and pull" move, a rip through, stacking and shedding, or just with flat out quickness where he would beat the OL to the spot.
I'm tired of watching a team that's soft. I'm tired of watching players that get stalled at first then don't have a counter to win. Buckner has that. You can see he's an effort player. The sack he had against Cal that's in the tweet above he beat the center and guard. He wouldn't be denied. I want a player that's tough and plays with a mean streak. Buckner does a great job of playing through the whistle. It's impressive for not only his size the way he gets up and down the line of scrimmage to finish plays but for any defensive lineman.
Here is his go to. The arm over. Many complain about Buckner's lack of explosive first step and there is no argument from me there. It's average at best. In this example, it's like he lulls the lineman to sleep, gets him to lung, then hits him with the arm over for a sack.
A good example that you can win without being explosive off of the snap. Lineman expect defenders to fire off the snap and engage. Buckner set the OL up here.
That's the upside you see with Buckner as a pass rusher. He's much more than just pushing the pocket. This year he really developed and showed he can get after the quarterback and most importantly, finish. When these plays are showing up every game multiple times it's hard for me to imagine that it won't translate to the next level.
Where Nkemdiche and Bosa will overwhelm guards with quickness or athleticism when they kick inside on passing downs, Buckner will rely on power but also is advanced enough as a pass rusher that he can win with technique as well. That club with his left hand before the arm over was just enough to get the OG off balance. Little things like that move to set up another move, in this case the arm over, are why I think Buckner can continue his success at the next level.
How good is he?
This draft season I think it's important to focus on what players can do instead of what they can't. As I've mentioned, Buckner has an average 1st step, he'll turn his shoulders and lose gap integrity, and there are times where he doesn't finish the tackle. Buttttttt there are too many occurrences where Buckner embarrasses the competition with not only strength or athleticism, but with technique as well.
He is so good at everything you look for in a defensive lineman. The length and strength, the ability to hold his position to keep linebackers behind him free but just as importantly he'll shed blocks and finish the play himself. He had 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks this year. He's a finisher. He also had 83 tackles on the year. When you watch you can see why because he's always hustling. He's never loafing. That matters and that kind of play rubs off on the rest of the defense. e helps everyone in the front 7. Buckner is the 2nd best player in the draft if you ask me. He's literally the perfect fit/pick for the Chargers. His floor is going to be good just based on how he plays the game. His ceiling makes him special if he can improve on some of his flaws. I'm all in on Buckner